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UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Green

May 7, 2009

UMG RECORDINGS, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION; SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT, A DELAWARE GENERAL PARTNERSHIP; WARNER BROS. RECORDS INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION; MOTOWN RECORD COMPANY, L.P., A CALIFORNIA LIMITED PARTNERSHIP; AND BMG MUSIC, A NEW YORK GENERAL PARTNERSHIP, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MEAGAN GREEN, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe U.S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

In this action UMG Recordings, Inc., Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Bros. Records Inc., Motown Record Company, L.P. and BMG Music (collectively "Plaintiffs") allege that defendant Meagan Green has infringed their copyrights in certain musical works in violation of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C.§ 101, et seq. Presently pending before the court is Plaintiffs' unopposed motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow the motion is granted.

II. Facts*fn1

Plaintiffs are the owners or licensees of copyrights in the ten musical works alleged to have been infringed by Green. (See Pl. SMF ¶ 1; Dkt. No. 20:2.) Using the screen name "Princess050280" Green connected to an online media distribution system through her computer, downloaded Plaintiffs' sound recordings, and distributed these sound recordings to millions of other users by placing them in the share folder on her computer. Id. at ¶¶ 2, 4, 5. Plaintiffs never authorized Green to copy, download, distribute or share Plaintiffs' sound recordings. Id. at ¶ 6. Plaintiffs registered the copyright in each of the ten sound recordings prior to the first date that Green downloaded or distributed the Sound Recordings. Id. at ¶ 7.

On March 11, 2008, Plaintiffs filed the instant action seeking, inter alia, statutory damages, injunctive relief and costs for Green's alleged infringement. (See Dkt. No. 1.) On April 7, 2008, the court received letters from Green requesting an extension of the answer deadline, appointment of counsel, and leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (See Dkt. Nos. 7-9.) Since such time she has not made any further appearances in the action. Presently pending before the court is Plaintiffs' unopposed motion for summary judgment. (See Dkt. No. 20.)

III. Standard of Review

The standard for the grant of summary judgment is well-established, and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard, the court refers the parties to its previous opinion in Bain v. Town of Argyle, 499 F. Supp. 2d 192, 194-95 (N.D.N.Y. 2007).

IV. Discussion

A. Green has Infringed Plaintiffs' Copyrights

The Copyright Act grants the copyright owner of a sound recording the exclusive rights "to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords" and "distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public." 17 U.S.C. § 106 (1), (3). To establish copyright infringement, Plaintiffs must prove two elements: (1) ownership of a valid copyright in the subject sound recordings, and (2) that Green copied or distributed copies of those sound recordings. See, e.g., Feist Publ'ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co., 499 U.S. 340, 361 (1991). It is unnecessary for Plaintiffs to show that the infringement was done knowingly or intentionally. See, e.g., Fitzgerald Publ'g Co. v. Baylor Publ'g Co., 807 F.2d 1110, 1113 (2d Cir. 1986).

In light of the these principles it is clear that summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs on the issue of Green's infringement is appropriate here. Through her deemed admissions, Green has conceded that Plaintiffs are the owners or licensees of valid copyrights in the ten sound recordings at issue. (See Pl. SMF ¶ 1; Dkt. No. 20:2.) She has further admitted that Plaintiffs registered their copyrights prior to the first date that she downloaded or distributed the sound recordings. Id. at ¶ 7. Thus, Plaintiffs' ownership of the relevant copyrights is undisputed. It is also clear that Green has copied and distributed these copyrighted works without authorization. Through her deemed admissions, Green concedes that she has used an online media distribution system to download Plaintiffs' sound recordings, and that she distributed such sound recordings by placing them in her computer's share folder, thus making them available to millions of others. Id. at ¶¶ 2, 4-6. As a matter of law, such acts constitute an unlawful reproduction of Plaintiffs' sound recordings and a violation of Plaintiffs' exclusive right to distribute their recordings. See, e.g., BMG Music v. Gonzalez, 430 F.3d 888, 889-90 (7th Cir. 2005) (affirming summary judgment against defendant who downloaded copyrighted music through the Internet); A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc., 239 F.3d 1004, 1014 (9th Cir. 2001) ("Napster users who upload file names to the search index for others to copy violate plaintiffs' distribution rights."). Accordingly, Plaintiffs are entitled to an order finding that Green has infringed the ten sound recordings listed in Exhibit A to their complaint.

B. Plaintiffs are Entitled to Statutory Damages

Once copyright infringement has been established the Copyright Act allows the copyright owner to recover statutory damages for each infringed work, in lieu of recovering actual damages and defendant's profits. See 17 U.S.C. ยง 504(c)(1). Statutory damages for non-willful infringement range from $750 a work to $30,000 a work. Id. Here, Plaintiffs seek the statutory minimum of $750 for each of the ten sound recordings infringed by Green. (See Pl. Mem. at 12-14; Dkt. No. 20:2.) A plaintiff electing statutory damages may not be awarded less than the minimum statutory amount specified under the Copyright Act for each work infringed. See Gonzalez, 430 F.3d at 892-93; ...


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